RAMALLAH, West Bank – The Israeli military on Friday evicted Palestinian activists from a camp they set up a week ago in the Jordan River valley in an attempt to challenge any Israeli plan to maintain a presence in the area under a future peace accord.
The activists, from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, were encamped at Ein Hijleh, a village abandoned after Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. The land, in an area east of Jericho, is owned by a local monastery.
Israeli officials have suggested, to the angry objection of Palestinians, that any peace agreement allow their nation to maintain a troop presence in the West Bank along the border with Jordan.
About 300 activists converged on the abandoned village Jan. 31 with tents, vowing to stay as long as possible. They brought food and other necessities to ward off the nighttime cold in the desert.
The Israeli military cut off access to water and electricity and set up a blockade, preventing journalists and others from reaching the site. Some activists attempted, with limited success, to smuggle food into the camp, leading to several arrests.
Several hundred soldiers accompanied by bulldozers stormed the village early Friday, scattering the activists and injuring more than 40 people, according to Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian lawmaker who was among the occupiers.
The move came hours before hundreds of Palestinians were planning to converge on Ein Hijleh in a show of solidarity with the activists, according to Diana Alzeer, spokeswoman for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
In other developments, Israeli police clashed with protesters in the area of Jerusalem's Old City known as the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims and the Temple Mount to Jews. A number of Palestinians threw rocks at police shortly after midday prayers at the Dome of the Rock mosque, said Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
"Israeli police units responded by using stun grenades and entering inside the Temple Mount area," he said, adding that seven people were arrested.
Palestinian medics at the mosque clinic said several people, including some elderly, were treated for injuries and that three were hospitalized.
Violence also flared Friday at the Jalazoun refugee camp in the West Bank, where soldiers shot to death a Palestinian two weeks ago. Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets, reportedly injuring several people.
Protests and clashes were also reported in a number of Palestinian villages during the weekly rallies against Israel's construction of settlements and a separation wall in the West Bank.